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(learned orally from Charlie Brown Artman about 1962)

staff with melody

Adieu to the stonewalls, the prisoner cried.
I'm going to leave you, done made up my mind.
I'm going to leave you, to the westward I'll roam.
I'll ride those long red balls wherever they roam.
      (note: the "red ball" was a type of freight train,
      and the "stonewall" means a prison.)

I mounted the red ball about ten o'clock.
The whistle blowed loudly, the drive wheel did knock.
The whistle blowed loudly, and ever so shrill.
Its echoes did mingle far over the hill.

The drive wheel was knocking at a forty-mile rate,
And boys, I was ridin' that long red ball freight.
I clumb to the caboose, the brakeman's true place.
Starvation and death, boys, stared into my face.

They took me to the city where they bought me some clothes.
They dressed me up neatly from my head to my toes.
They took me to the city where they were lookin' for me,
But I paid them no mind, boys, as you'll quickly see.

Up stepped a lone cop, boys, to the side of my car,
Sayin', Brakeman, please tell me, if it lies in your power,
Sayin', Is there a convict upon the red ball?
I'm seeking a convict who escaped the stonewall.

That is not my job, sir, as you'll understand,
I'm only a brakeman, and no convict man.
Go forth and you'll find him, put it in your record.
No brakeman hunts convicts, or fools with reward.

I climbed back on top, boys, and signalled to go,
A-watching the conductor who signalled below,
A-waving so skillful the brakeman's highball.
We left that lone cop, boys, in the streets of Stonewall.

Adieu to the stonewalls, good-bye, fare you well.
Adieu to the stonewalls, good-bye to my cell.
Adieu to the stonewalls, you've served me too well.
I'll enjoy a heaven instead of a hell.

(from miriam berg's folksong collection)